Friday, September 12, 2008
That's Claghorn, Son!
"That's...I say, that's Claghorn, son! Not Leghorn! Look at me when I'm talkin' to ya, boy!"
The entertainment and publishing world is packed floor to ceiling with sad tales of creative folk who were cheated out of their works by those less talented, but far more ruthless.
By now everyone knows how comics creators such as Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (Superman), Jack Kirby (Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Hulk, Avengers, X-Men, etc.), Steve Ditko (Spider-Man, Dr. Strange) were cheated out of the comic book characters they concocted while others turned unimaginable profits from the sweat of their brows.
And, of course, the film industry has its share of these kinds of stories, too. One such tale is that of Kenny Delmar. Delmar was principally known in the late 40s and early 50s as a radio actor and announcer, working mainly for the Fred Allen Show. And Delmar's stroke of genius as an actor and performer was his creation of the bombastic southern gentleman, Senator Beauregard Claghorn.
Delmar, performing as Claghorn came up with a signal accent, voice, demeanor, and repertoire which made him imminently identifiable and irresistably imitable. Anyone and everyone had to do their own versions of Delmar's Senator Claghorn. In fact, the character was so popular and so easy to do that Warner Brothers soon purloined the Senator in rooster's clothing with voice by Mel Blanc and reintroduced him as Foghorn Leghorn, which is the way most of the public today knows the voice and mannerisms of Delmar's wacky southern senator.
The moral crime in all of this is that, after a time, Warner Brothers trademarked the Foghorn Leghorn character, mannerisms and all, and when Delmar tried to do his Claghorn character thereafter, he was barred from doing so without the express permission of Warner Brothers!
This went on for a number of years. Here was the actor Kenny Delmar who had created the character, and yet he was not allowed to use it. This had to be a major disappointment for Kenny Delmar in the years after radio comedy faded away and he found himself unable to cash in on his most well-known creation. Delmar struggled with the big corporation for a long time before he was finally able to start using that voice and character again.
When, in 1960, he was allowed to cash in on the persona, he was heard as the voice of the hound dog, The Hunter in the cartoon series of that name which appeared on the cartoon show King Leonardo and Friends.
So the next time you hear the Foghorn Leghorn voice, or anyone imitating it, be aware that its creator was not a major motion picture studio, that it was not Mel Blanc. It was, in fact, a fine performer whose name was Kenny Delmar.